Overnight, the fabulous Baja California saw a very close competing of the teams Visit Finland and New York on Day 8 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race as they battled to catch Gold Coast Australia in variable downwind conditions.
“We’ve had an encouraging run during the last couple of days and we’re trying to keep the distance covered down to a minimum, with the big rudder blade beneath the boat being turned as little as possible,” Visit Finland’s skipper, Olly Osborne, said.
“The continual spinnaker trimming requires a lot of attention and keeping up this focus for hours on end is not always easy, but careful trimming is essential to keep the boat ghosting along in the lighter airs,” Olly added.
Over the next few days the teams will become more reliant on currents and coastal winds as they race their way towards Panama City.
On New York, Gareth Glover and his team have been working hard to keep their speed up as much as possible in the testing conditions. Despite sustaining damage to their lightweight kite after it caught on a headsail hank, the team has managed to repair it and re-hoist to ensure they have the maximum amount of sail up for the light airs.
“As we head further south we are expecting the wind to continue to drop so have decided to head inshore in the search of a sea breeze,” Gareth said, noting that the his team’s tactics remain to stay inshore and they continue to occupy the most easterly position in the fleet.
“We’ve gybed several times in an effort to make some ground east towards the Mexican coastline while still maintaining an element of south in our course,” he said.
Gold Coast Australia has maintained the lead overnight, and Richard Hewson and his team continue to search for optimum wind in an attempt to keep the opposition at bay.
After the offshore breeze they were hoping for failed to materialise, Gold Coast Australia gybed offshore to cover the fleet. However, this morning Richard reported that he is concerned that the chasing pack will get more wind and eat into their lead.
“Our unfortunate situation at the moment is the yachts behind us have more wind and unless we can reach the better pressure to the south east first our lead will continue to decrease,” Richard said.
“It is interesting to see that the fleet is all still reasonably close even after numerous different tactical strategies have come into play,” he added. A total of 82 miles currently separate the entire fleet with just under 2,000 miles left to run to the finish.
Despite the immense concentration required to ensure optimum trim and a stable spinnaker in the light conditions, the crew spirits on board Gold Coast Australia are being lifted by Mexican-themed food and abundant sea life.
“With the lighter winds crew are kept amused spotting the copious amounts of wildlife around us. Today we saw a large pod of whales on their migration north, our first sea lions lazing in the sun as well as countless dolphins chasing fish,” Richard said.
On Derry-Londonderry, Mark Light and his team are trying to claw their way up the leader board after a frustrating day in a wind hole when they lost valuable places.
“The focus is firmly on playing catch-up now and we’re trying our best to make up the miles lost over the last 24 hours,” he said.
“We’re ghosting along with hardly a sound under a perfectly clear blue sky and beautifully flat azure blue sea. This race is one very long, tactical trimming exercise and the experience that the crew has absorbed with regard to handling spinnakers, trimming, peeling and pole work will be invaluable in the weeks to come,” Mark said.
“With almost certainly the same sail plans across the fleet it is going to be a tough one to pull back but in typical Derry-Londonderry style, we will give our all,” he said.
Another less conventional tactic being employed on Derry-Londonderry is the consumption of as much food as possible. Mark explains that his team is munching its way through “mountains of food” in the hope that it will lighten the boat but only time will tell whether the team’s increased consumption will result in better performance.
Welcome to Yorkshire is managing to hold onto a spot in the top half of the leader board, and Rupert Dean reports that his team has enjoyed another day of downwind sailing under cloudless skies.
“Cruise liners feature a lot around here, most notably at the entrance to the Gulf of California, as they are attracted by the numerous pods of whales, which migrate here annually to mate. Save a few distant spouts, we’ve yet to see any close up, but have spotted several seals and sunfish,” Rupert said.
Rupert added that downwind sailing on Welcome to Yorkshire has developed into a steady routine. “Peels and gybes are interspersed with regular periods of maintenance to keep chafe at bay and our sails in good working order,” he said.
On Singapore, Ben Bowley and his team are still trying to regain the ground lost whilst dealing with a colossal kite wrap earlier in the week.
“We have settled back into the task of trying to reel in some of our competitors by ensuring fastidious kite trim and helming. Close attention to keeping in a decent band of south easterly flowing current running along the continental shelf has also been paramount, rewarding us at times with speeds over the ground in excess of 9 knots for a time,” Ben said.
Ben reported that the wind filled in nicely as his team headed inshore and felt the land effect, but they slowed up again after the sun set.
“With the winds due to go even lighter over the coming 24 hours, we will have to do something to keep Singapore moving at a slightly better pace than we have been managing,” he conceded.
On Qingdao, Ian Conchie reports that his team has been switching between their lightweight and medium weight spinnaker as they head south east towards the finish.
“Each evolution is quick and smooth as we try to make back the ground we lost last night. In the meantime the VHF radio is full of chatter between the teams and we’ve had some amazing sights today of whales broaching and turtles to keep the crew entertained in the sun,” he said.
On Geraldton Western Australia, skipper Juan Coetzer said his crew has been helping each other out and teaching each other new skills as they race towards Panama City.
Juan said his team had been taking advantage of the flat conditions to carry out more running maintenance including stripping the cars off the deck and giving them a service.
The Geraldton Western Australia team has also been reflecting on what they have achieved as they race their way around the globe on a Clipper 68. “How do you finish off a perfect week? You put your blazer on, gather the crew and make a toast to Neptune and our achievements and successes in life,” Juan said.
On Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, Flavio Zamboni and his team have enjoyed a light but pretty steady north-westerly breeze for the last 24 hours but their offshore position has failed to help their standing within the fleet.
“Staying further offshore hasn’t really paid off and we’re now chasing the fleet,” Flavio said.
“But morale on board is high, and the crew is enjoying racing and the weather is glorious,” he added.
On De Lage Landen, Stuart Jackson reports that his team has experienced “another day in paradise” after picking up the maximum three points on offer at the Scoring Gate.
“After a couple of days of wonderful sailing, we have already witnessed a some of the most amazing sights we’ve had in the entire race to date. Sporadic pods of dolphins and whales fill the deck with laughter and excitement time and time again,” Stuart said.
“Racing in those conditions is a beautiful reward after the relentless pounding the fleet endured last leg. But the weather conditions might seem misleading, as we are still pushing the yacht to the limit in order to get the results we are looking for,” he added.
The fleet is expected to arrive in Panama City between 9 and 10 May.